As I sit writing in my office in mid-January it is 29 degrees outside and planting time seems far away.

The truth is, however, that in 60 days or so, if spring comes on time, we’ll be sowing pea seeds, setting out lettuce, and planting onion sets.

Regardless of when winter yields to spring, it will come sooner than we think and could easily catch us unprepared.

Why not use these offseason days to plan and prepare to have the best garden you’ve ever had?

Here are a few things that I’m doing now to upgrade the efficiency, production, look, and enjoyment of my 2016 garden.

  1. I’ve inspected the perimeters of my beds and determined that the 2” x 6” and 2”x 8” retainers are all in poor condition and the soil capacity is maxed out, which will prevent me from enhancing the beds with a layer of Dambly’s composted soil before I plant, which I do annually.
  2. Most of my beds are long and thin, (4’-5’), running parallel to my property line, garage and home. In addition to upgrading the perimeters to new 2”x 10” boards I am planning to widen each bed by a foot or two. The higher sides will greatly increase my ability to add compost each year and the increased width will add many square feet of productive soil to my garden.
  3. I’ve laid out on paper the new dimensions and made a list of what I will need to complete the project. The list includes lumber, connecting hardware, weed barrier (to go under the soil in the new areas), composted soil, organic tomato vegetable fertilizer, 24” chicken wire, garden stakes, and of course, seeds and plants.  I also researched the costs of all involved  to complete the project so there are no shocks to my budget. To spread out such costs and to insure I’ll be ready in time, I have already begun to purchase the necessary materials.
  4. I will use any occasional temperate days over the winter to build the new perimeters, lay out the weed barrier, and perhaps even do some soil work.
  5. It’s fun to add something new to my garden each year. Last year I built a new raised bed and successfully grew cantaloupes and honeydew melons in it. (I tried watermelons too in my main bed, but got them way too close to my squash plants and they failed!).

This year I am going to add an asparagus bed in an existing area, but have planned some modifications to accommodate this great perennial.

What new vegetable or herb do you want to try this year?

  1. Strategize now! Plan where and when you will plant the seeds and plants you want to grow.

Rotate crops where you can so you are not raising the same vegetable in the same soil year after year as diseases will linger and infect this year’s crop.

Plan to enhance your soil annually either with bagged soil conditioners such as BUMPER CROP, or with a bulk product such as Dambly’s composted soil, which is sold by the cubic yard.

Plan to purchase and use high quality fresh fertilizer, organic or otherwise………trust me, that ten year old tattered bag of 5-10-5 in the corner of your garage that closely resembles a concrete block is not your best play!

Maximize the Jersey growing season by planting peas, spinach, lettuces, broccoli, and other cole crops as soon as the weather allows (late March-early April), and when they are finished (usually by early June), pull  them out and replace them with hot weather crops like beans, squash, eggplants, cucumbers, and peppers.

However, since you will also want to be planting tomatoes and some of the above in late April-early May you will want to leave unplanted space for them as well……….so get your paper and pencil out and sketch out some plans…….you will be greatly rewarded by your diligence!


Last but not least, for you patio pot farmers out there make sure that if you have any strawberries in pots that you protect them from winter’s cold temperatures by bringing them in to your garage or sheds. If left fully exposed to subfreezing temps the crowns will probably not survive.

Good luck with your garden preparations!
Ted Webster
“Tomato Ted”

Leave a Comment